Starbucks and Other Popular Restaurants Go Social

It seems that no matter where you go these days, the likelihood is high that you will see a “Free Wi-Fi” sticker on the front door of the establishment.  Whether you are going for coffee, meeting a colleague for lunch, stopping at a rest stop or waiting for an airplane, you can pretty much bet that you will be able to check your email and surf the web while you are there.  But providing customers with free Internet access is just the beginning.  Some of the world’s most well known brands are aggressively using social media as a marketing tool.

Many of the largest and most recognizable restaurant brands are starting to realize the power and potential of social media, not only for the use of their clientele but also in getting their message out in new and innovative ways.  They have begun to realize that building larger online communities equates to higher numbers of restaurant sales. For this reason, media outlet Nation’s Restaurant News teamed up with an analytics and digital branding firm, DigitalCoCo to create the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) highlighting the industry’s Top 100 each quarter.

The RSMI is a comprehensive tracking system that uses both an advanced algorithm of several third-party results indexes along with the DigitalCoCo Social Insights algoritm.  It quantifies the social media efforts of 600+ restaurant brands using more than 23 million consumers and thousands of keywords, menu items and basic restaurant terms that have been indexed over past years.  The RSMI is meant to help those in the restaurant business get a better understanding of how they can leverage social media to compete within today’s social world.  And given that they do not simply tally numbers of followers and fans, the playing field is level, even for restaurants that are just beginning to emerge.


NRN analyzes a restaurant’s social footprint utilizing not only Facebook and Twitter but also other social media platforms such as Foursquare, Google+ and YouTube.  Each brand is ranked on a 300-point scale that not only takes the number of fans and followers into consideration but also takes the following metrics into account:

  1. Twitter Analytics are used to monitor each brand’s account activity and growth, consumer influence and sentiment as well as the level of engagement each brand shows towards its consumers.
  2. Facebook Analytics are used to quantify each brand’s activities, fan growth and interaction on Facebook as well as each brand’s level of engagement.  
  3. Klout Analytics are used by applying numerical algorithms to the influence of a brand as an outside third party and takes into account engagement, reach, influencer connections and overall influence.

Using these analytics tools, NRN recently introduced the third-quarter of 2011 Restaurant Social Media Index: Top 100.  I thought it would be fun to compare, analyze and discuss the top 5 of the list which includes Starbucks Coffee, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Outback Steakhouse.

1. Starbucks Coffee

Starbucks was rated as the number one restaurant brand with an overall RSMI score of 243.2 out of 300 as well as a Kout score of 84.  What spreads Starbuck’s apart is the large margin between it and other large chains.  Starbucks Coffee is top dog in Facebook likes and Twitter Followers.  As of October 30, 2011, Starbucks showed an impressive 25.2 million likes on it’s Facebook page as compared to McDonald’s which only had 10.4 million likes.  Starbucks dominance in Twitter followers is quite high as well with 1.7 million twitter followers to Subway’s 169,000 followers.  The RSMI also shows a social consumer sentiment score of 72.

Starbuck Coffee, you may recall, used to be a Wi-Fi Hot Spot, where in order to access the Internet you had to pay a fee.  But with the widespread “Free Wi-FI” availability at majority of their competitors, Starbucks must have realized that charging for Wi-Fi was pushing consumers away.  Now not only do they offer free Wi-Fi, but they also actively engage consumers on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and YouTube.  Starbucks also has their own blog in a social network format of sorts that they call My Starbucks Idea.  The blog shares information but is also fully interactive in that, like most social networks, consumers are encouraged to share their ideas on anything relating to the company and its brand as well as the ability to see and respond to the ideas, thoughts and suggestions of others.

See: Starbucks on Twitter; Starbucks on Facebook.


2. Wendy’s

Wendy’s came in second this quarter with an overall RSMI score of 221.9 out of 300 as well as a Klout score matching Starbucks at 84.  The RMSI shows a social consumer sentiment score of 59, but shows an incredible 86.5% Twitter growth since 2nd Quarter 2011.

Wendy’s uses social media platforms such as Twitter and Foursquare  to offer multiple promotions to it’s consumers by driving traffic to their Facebook pages such as the Frosty’s Facebook Page where they post and actively engage consumers nearly every single day.

See: Wendy’s on Twitter; Wendy’s on Facebook.

3. Chick-fil-A

“Eat Mor Chikin”

Chick-fil-A came in third with an overall RSMI score of 213.0 out of 300 as well as a Klout score of 72.  The RMSI shows a social consumer sentiment score that matches Wendy’s at 59 and they  are also number 5 in on the list in terms of total Facebook Likes.

Incidentally, the Chick-fil-A Facebook fan page was NOT started by the company.  When they decided to start their own Facebook page they realized that there was already a page in existence that was started by a rather enthusiastic fan of the company and already had more that 25,000 fans in place.  They are currently co-admins with the orignal creator of the FB page where they leverage this media by offering promotions to consumers as well as engaging and listening to consumer thoughts, comments and concerns.  They also utilize their website to give their consumers a voice through their Share Your Chick-Fil-A Story page.

See: Chick-fil-A on Twitter; Chick-fil-A on Facebook.

4. McDonald’s

McDonald’s took fourth this quarter with an overall RSMI score of 195.8 out of 300 as well as a Klout score matching Chick-fil-A at 72.  The RMSI shows a social consumer sentiment score of 51, but also shows that they are number 2 in total Facebook likes and number 3 overall in Twitter followers.

McDonald’s recently reintroduced the McRib sandwiches to its menu.  I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials of the newlyweds about to embark on their honeymoon. To create a buzz around the product, they have introduced a Facebook game “The Quest for the Golden McRib.  Out of curiosity, I tried the game out.  It is quite boring to say the least.  But hey, nice try.  Nonetheless, the director of social media for McDonald’s Corp., Rick Wion seems to get it.  He says,

“It’s really not about how many people are following you, it’s about the level of engagement, really the strong connections you are making with customers.”

See: McDonald’s on TwitterMcDonald’s on Facebook.

5. Outback Steakhouse

Finally, the Outback Steakhouse is in fifth place out of 100 with an RSMI score of 192.6 out of 300 and a Klout score of 68.  Although the RSMI shows only a social consumer sentiment score of 45, it also shows that they have seen a 54% growth in Twitter followers since last quarter.

Outback posts photos and information every few days on their Facebook Page to entice consumers and to create a buzz around it’s brand.  They also actively monitor consumer tweets and Foursquare Check Ins and engage their consumers regularly as the comments are posted by consumers.

See: Outback Steakhouse on TwitterOutback Steakhouse on Facebook


Gone are the days of relying solely on a real world marketing campaign.  Leveraging the power of social media to continually build your brand keeps companies in the minds of their consumers, when done right even building a relationship with consumers.  This leads to brand loyalty, good will and increased sales.

If powerhouse companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks are all in with social media shouldn’t you and your company be doing the same? It’s time to take your branding to the next level.  With a sharp trademark, a quality product or service and a good social media campaign even modest resources can deliver rewards.


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